Awaiting Reform, Montoya Pitches ‘Last’ Fund-Raiser

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Times Staff Writer

State Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier), one of three sponsors of Proposition 73, a June ballot measure to limit campaign contributions, has appealed to lobbyists to contribute $500 each to what he is calling his “last-chance” fund-raiser.

But plans for Monday’s reception have drawn fire from Walter A. Zelman, chairman of the campaign for Proposition 68, a rival measure designed to curb the influence of special-interest contributors. Zelman maintains that Montoya’s fund-raiser is “making a mockery of campaign reform.”

Montoya branded Zelman’s comments outrageous. “If it’s not his (proposition), he doesn’t want any” reform, Montoya said.


In the invitation to his party at the Firehouse restaurant here, Montoya said that with the two propositions on the ballot, “it is likely this will be our last opportunity to receive contributions without limitations. So please, be generous and join us for a fine evening of cocktails, soft music and delightful hors d’oeuvres.” Lobbyists and other contributors were asked to chip in $500 apiece.

Montoya, who last year reported raising $141,000, said he expects Monday’s event to attract about $50,000 in donations. He said some of the money--though he would not spell out how much--would be funneled into the Proposition 73 campaign.

Had No Challenger

A 10-year veteran of the Senate who failed to draw a challenger in 1986, Montoya represents the 26th District, which includes Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Montebello, Rosemead, South El Monte, El Monte, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, La Puente, Industry and North Whittier.

With the June 7 primary five weeks away, Montoya’s party is scheduled at the height of the political fund-raising season.

In recent years, legislative campaign costs have skyrocketed, with the price tag of a few contests hovering around $3 million. As a consequence, fund raising is increasingly important to lawmakers.

Proposition 68, sponsored by business leaders, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, would limit the amount of money legislative candidates could spend in a campaign, restrict to $1,000 the amount that an individual contributor could give to a candidate and provide matching tax dollars to candidates who qualify.


Would Ban Transfer

Proposition 73 would also limit individual contributions to $1,000, but it would also ban the transfer of campaign money from one candidate to another and prohibit any public financing of candidates in state and local campaigns. Besides Montoya, it is sponsored by Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) and Sen. Quentin L. Kopp (I-San Francisco).

Zelman branded Proposition 73 “fraudulent campaign reform” because “it would do nothing to limit campaign spending.”

As for Montoya’s fund-raiser, Zelman said: “Here’s someone who claims to be a reformer pleading for money. . . . Hypocritical is probably too soft a word to describe that tactic.”

Further, he said, it is misleading to label the fund-raiser as the “last chance” reception because even if the propositions are enacted, Montoya still would have until the end of the year to raise campaign funds under the current law.

Protest Planned

Zelman, who is also executive director of the citizen lobbying group California Common Cause, said supporters of Proposition 68 plan to protest outside Montoya’s reception.

Zelman said Montoya “raises and spends a large amount of money, and he hasn’t had a challenge in years. Most (of it) is from lobbying groups who appear before him in his role as chair of the Business and Professions Committee.”


As of the middle of March, Montoya reported having $84,200 in his treasury after spending $238,000 in 1987. His expenditures included air travel, hotels, Raiders football tickets and donations to Democrat Cecil N. Green of Norwalk, who won a special state Senate election.

Montoya defended his fund raising.

“You’re . . . damned right I’m raising money. . . . What am I supposed to do, tie my hands behind my back?”

Merely a Gimmick

Montoya said that as long as the rules of fund raising are not changed, “I’m going to go on raising money.” But he said the description of his event as the “last chance” reception is merely a gimmick. “It’s just another fund-raising theme. It’s nothing more or less. (Zelman’s) outrageous to be making those charges.”

With large amounts of money flowing into campaigns, Montoya acknowledged, lawmakers could be tempted to switch votes for money. “If we’re not there, we’re on the verge of it,” he said.

Montoya maintained that even though he does not face reelection this year, he is obligated to pump funds into campaigns of Democratic senators in contested races.

As a veteran lawmaker, Montoya complained that he is “tired of the fund-raising game. Just because I do it doesn’t mean I like it.”